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If you identify as a highly sensitive person, an empath, or an INFJ personality type, you undoubtedly have encountered more than your fair share of toxic personalities and narcissists. Unfortunately, because our light shines so brightly (being natural givers), we are always going to be targeted by these types of people. What you need to learn is how to stop attracting them, and most important, how to recognize them and stand up to them when they are drawn to you.

Being an empath who also identifies as an INFJ, I use Introverted Intuition as my dominant function, followed by Extroverted Feeling. These two functions serve INFJs well when meeting new people or reading people they already know. (What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)

They can also help us instantaneously know if something is off about a person. For example, when I recently met a new coworker, I immediately picked up an “off” feeling about her, and recognized something she did and said as a red flag. After a few weeks, I noticed that I usually didn’t feel good about myself when she was around, and that she frequently lied. After a few months, it was pretty obvious to me (as a psychology masters candidate) that she had more than just a toxic personality, but also two personality disorders that are dangerous to empaths and HSPs because of our sensitivities.

I spend a great deal of my personal time studying psychological abuse and toxic personalities because I have endured a lifetime of this trauma, and I want to help others overcome it. Here are a few things that I have learned in my journey as an HSP, empath, and INFJ about how to stand up for myself and stop attracting toxic personalities:

1. Learn to recognize toxic personalities.

If someone consistently makes you feel bad about yourself and constantly puts you down (even if they say they are just joking — a caustic sense of humor is a big sign of narcissism), you may be in the presence of a toxic person. Other signs include: they make you doubt yourself, your intuition, your feelings, and your ideas; you start to feel worthless around them. Mature, healthy people do not make you second guess yourself, your feelings, your ideas, your worth, or anything else. Healthy friends or partners will build you up, support you, and make you feel better about yourself, not worse.

If you are experiencing name-calling, insults, demeaning remarks, crazy-making schemes, and chaos where there once was harmony, you may have a narcissist on your hands. They may also try to intimidate you, yell at you, and make you feel like nothing you do is good enough. Some may even blatantly disrespect your boundaries. Others may gaslight you, which, according to Shahida Arabi, author of Power, can be summed up with these three phrases: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?”

2. Trust your intuition and establish clear boundaries.

One of the biggest mistakes I have made in my personal journey is not trusting my intuition and waiting until I have noticed more red flags than I would like to admit. In these situations, it took a while to finally admit that this person was hurtful and I had to get away.  If you get any kind of gut feeling or intuitive thought that something is “off” about a person – go with that. Take a step back, slow things down, and observe this person interacting with others. What do they do and say, and how do they treat others? Try to figure out who they really are on the inside.

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